For the citizens of Bend, Troy Field has become a de-facto park. Soccer teams practice there, local residents exercise their dogs there, and community members gather there for picnics and potlucks. It is a major urban open space in downtown Bend and for children who live nearby, the only place to run and play that doesn't require crossing busy downtown streets.
Despite the fact that it looks like a park, acts like a park, and gets used like a park, it is not, in fact, a park. It is simply a fenced field owned by Bend LaPine School District, which doesn't really want it. The local daily paper has suggested selling the valuable real estate to the highest bidder to help plug budget holes for local schools, and a Portland developer offered to buy it for $1.9 million, contingent on the removal of the "public facilities" designation for the property. Responding to opposition from local citizens who want to preserve open space in downtown Bend, the City Council decided to maintain the designation, and the deal recently fell through.
The Save Troy Field folks can claim temporary victory, but the school district still needs to sell the land, according to School Board Chair Nori Juba, who told KTVZ news, "We need to maintain, upgrade and preserve our assets. The school board is still looking at how to do that and obviously selling an asset, a piece of property we don't have a need for, is obviously a way to get there. I think our first choice is to sell it to somebody that's going to preserve green open space in this neighborhood."
As we said in our January 2015 editorial, we can't fault the school district for seeking more money for schools, and we can't fault neighbors for wanting to preserve what little open space is left in the downtown area. But we are concerned about the piecemeal approach to the overall planning for downtown Bend.
During the intervening year and a half, our position has not changed. What has changed is the fact that the City Council and the community have expressed a strong desire to keep Troy Field as an open urban space for community use. However, there is still no overall, strategic plan regarding the future of Troy Field, Mirror Pond, and downtown Bend in general.
The fact that the Troy Field deal is off the table gives us time to start a community conversation about the best way to move forward. Bend Parks and Rec could serve as a catalyst for that discussion by including Troy Field as a goal in its Parks, Recreation, and Green Spaces Comprehensive Plan.
In October of 2015, Parks and Rec indicated that it had no current or future interest in acquiring Troy Field, as it was too small to be designated a neighborhood park, too expensive, and the service area it is located in was not identified as an underserved area. Considering the groundswell of support from park district residents, we hope it will reconsider this position.